Last post on May 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM
You are in the Toyota Sienna
What is this discussion about?
#1 of 11 Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant)
Apr 19, 2012 (5:13 pm)
First, some background. Our most recent Sienna was a ’05 XLE. Over a period of seven years and 73k miles of driving, the only problems we ever had were to have the rear hatch struts replaced in a recall and to have some seals/gaskets replaced at 72k miles. Otherwise we just had to deal with normal maintenance. We were very happy with this van! We decided to upgrade (well, we thought we were upgrading) to a 2012 XLE (no nav) because the van was getting old enough that I was concerned about possible breakdowns on cross-country trips; and because I was tired of hearing uppermost management (the missus) complain about it not having heated seats (we had a pretty basic XLE).
So now we’ve had a new XLE for three months and I regret the purchase. Here’s why:
(1) The rattle from hell that took the dealer several days to fix. (2) An intermittent problem with adjusting the driver’s side rear view mirror. Dealer can’t duplicate, won’t fix until they can observe the problem. (3) There is a lighted indicator on the little info screen that tells you whether the AC is switched on or off. If the AC is switched off, it always tells you that. If the AC is switched on, it only tells you that if you started the van with AC off and then switched it on. Start the van with the AC switched on and you get no light. So sometimes when my AC is switched on I get a light that tells me so, and sometimes I get no light. Dealer agrees this isn’t right, and tells me they all do it.
Bottom line: I’ve had more problems with this van in the first three months of ownership than I had in the first six years with the ’05.
DESIGN ISSUES/DISAPPOINTMENTS (I knew about a couple of these before purchasing but decided I could tolerate them, and I wasn’t aware of the most annoying ones)
(1) Middle seats. My old XLE was a seven passenger version. I could set it up with the two middle seats side-by-side (adjacent, no space between) and a pretty wide space going into the rear area by the passenger sliding door, making it easy for people to get to the rear or to access items packed in the rear. Now the XLE is eight passenger only and you can’t put the primary middle seats right next to each other. So no more easy access to the rear.
The seats do run on a longer track than on the old van, so some folks will like that. For my purposes, it’s not important.
Also, I can’t help but comment about that seat for the eighth passenger (middle seat, middle row). It’s about ten inches wide! Do you know anyone who is ten inches wide? The only people that I know who are ten inches wide are very small children. These children are required by law to sit in a child seat which is…. duh…. more than ten inches wide? So what’s the point of the seat?
(2) Flat load floor. Old van: fold down the rear seats, remove the middle seats, and you’ve got a nice flat space that’s nearly eight feet long. I’ve slept comfortably back there using only a thin camping pad as a cushion. With the new van, you can still remove the middle seats but a sliding track mechanism remains in the van. No more comfortable sleeping or nice flat load floor.
(3) Front console between seats. Old van: Remove it, and slide in ten foot boards from Home Depot. New van: can’t remove it, no more long flat space to carry long boards.
(4) Moonroof. Old van: nice big opening, built-in wind deflector. New van: MUCH smaller opening, no wind deflector.
(5) Dash/front passenger area. Not as many nice little storage cubbies in new van. Also, the material used in the dash looks and feels cheap. Really, really, cheap for a $35k van.
(6) Heated seat controls. Yeah, the missus is happy to have those heated seats. But I don’t like the way the controls work. I’ve had several cars with heated seats, and in all cases they switch off when you shut off the van (or maybe remember that you want heat if you start it again soon, but switch off if left for any length of time). With the switch design on the new Sienna, they’re on until you physically shut them off. I don’t like this because for example I could drive around for weeks and never notice that the passenger side seat heater was on. Could lead to premature failure of heating coils/elements.
And now for the most annoying issues: THE NEW ELECTRONICS. I was excited about getting Bluetooth and an IPOD interface in the new van. These items have turned out to be a major disappointment. Note that the dealer has told me that both items mentioned below are by design and cannot be changed.
(1) Bluetooth. My wife and I share the use of this van, and both of our cell phones are paired with the system. The system is programmed so that, when the van is started up, it only searches for the most recently connected phone. So when I go to use the van after my wife has driven it and used Bluetooth, it won’t connect with my phone: I have to go through a multi-step manual connection process. She goes to use it and has to go through the same process to get it back to her phone. And so on. I’ve given up on using the Bluetooth and just leave it set up for her phone. Don’t understand why it couldn’t be programmed to try for the second paired phone if the most recently used one isn’t within range.
(3) IPOD. First, the interface is incredibly slow. Try scrolling through a list of maybe 20 playlists! But the worst part is, a selection of “IPOD” as the audio source is not maintained for more than a couple of minutes when you shut the van off. Here’s the scenario: I’m driving and want to listen to the IPOD, so I select it. Go into Quickee Mart for lottery tickets, come out, start up the van and audio system doesn’t play the IPOD but instead searches for Bluetooth source. I must reselect IPOD. Go down the street for groceries, get back into van, start it up and once again must reselect IPOD. And so on. I HAVE TO RESELECT MY MUSIC SOURCE EVERY FRI**ING TIME I GET IN THE VAN! Who programmed this? It doesn’t switch from, say, satellite radio to CD because you turned it off for five minutes. What can’t it stay with the IPOD setting?
You might say at this point that I'm guilty of having a double standard: I want the van to remember the audio (IPOD) setting but not keep the heated seats on. It's true, I'm not consistent, but the setup I want is what I've experienced on my other cars so I think it's typical.
Bottom line: what I thought was going to be the best new stuff turns out to be the most disappointing. These items may seem minor, but they tick me off EVERY TIME I GET IN MY NEW VAN!
To be fair, there are a few nice things about the new van. It feels more powerful and the transmission shifts are smoother, and those window shades are nice. But that’s about all I can say in its favor, unfortunately.
#2 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [tom_in_pa1]
Apr 20, 2012 (7:59 am)
Toyota cut some costs and you noticed, basically.
Personally, I think I'd get a CPO 2010 model. It really only gives up 1 speed on the trans (5 instead of 6), but just about everything else was better about it.
I don't like the new Ody, either, though, so I'm not sure what I'd pick among new vans. The Ody is odd looking. The Quest is too short/small.
Let's see how Kia updates the Sedona. I liked the KV7 concept.
#3 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [ateixeira]
Apr 20, 2012 (8:58 am)
I agree: going with a 2010 is a better bet. I spent a couple of weeks looking around the Phoenix area for a nice low-mileage 2010 before giving up and getting the 2012. Should have been more patient and waited longer for a 2010!
#4 of 11 We love our 2012 XLE
May 02, 2012 (11:18 am)
But then again, we were coming out of a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan which had none of these features. This is my wife's DD and my long trip vehicle so a lot of your nit picks don't bother me. The seat heater thing is just something to get use to. I could care less about bluetoothing my phone or hooking up an iPod. I love having satellite radio for the first time. We have no rattles and our van seems very well assembled so we are pleased on that front. My primary interest is in its driving dynamics. I never drove the 2nd Gen but this one drives great as far as I'm concerned. The steering is a little over boosted but the engine, transmission and suspension are spot on. The fit and finish is excellent as well. Can't wait to road trip it.
#5 of 11 Re: We love our 2012 XLE [indydriver]
May 02, 2012 (5:09 pm)
All in all, I don't think that the '12 Sienna is a terrible product. But I do think they screwed up on the bluetooth & ipod, and that the previous generation model was better designed... Note that this isn't just my opinon: I remember reading at least one car mag review that concluded that the new generation Sienna was NOT an improvement over the previous one (also remember reading the same thing about the latest generation Ody).
#6 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [tom_in_pa1]
May 12, 2012 (5:41 pm)
and as the current owner of both an 05 XLE and 06 LE, who would otherwise be replacing one or both this year, this is why I'm not going to be buying a new Sienna. I will hold out at least another year or three if at all possible and see if the Siennas or Odyssey improve enough to justify dropping the cash on a new one. I am on my fourth or fifth Toyota, and was ready to go back into Sienna (we have 4 young kids so minivan in the near future for us) but I just cannot justify it given the concerns. It's a shame their sales haven't fallen off enough to wake them up to the consistent complaints I read on the new model.
#7 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [kbinsturner]
May 12, 2012 (7:30 pm)
Interesting that you give more weight to a few bitch threads on the Internet than your own positive experience!
#8 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [indydriver]
May 12, 2012 (11:04 pm)
The positive experiences and the "bitch threads" are about two different generations of the Sienna. The point is that, for me at last, the positive experience with the '05 does NOT carry over to the '12. It's a different van, and not in a good way.
Also, once again, auto mag reviews were also somewhat negative on the latest generation Sienna: I don't believe that I read any reviews that concluded that it was an improvement.
#9 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [tom_in_pa1]
May 13, 2012 (6:01 am)
Having never driven the 2nd Gen Sienna, I can only conclude it must be one of the best vehicles ever built. As I mentioned earlier, we spent the last 22 years in Mopar minivans which were also generally pretty good vehicles. Of course, they had their weaknesses and weren't perfect. So, while my 2012 Sienna is my first Toyota, I know a thing or two about essential minivan goodness. I will admit that my priorities start with driving dynamics which, IMNSHO, Toyota has nailed in the 3rd G. All the other detail stuff is nit picking to a great extent and personal preferences to some extent. No vehicle is perfect but the current Sienna is a very capable vehicle for it's intended market.
Car reviews? Well, as a subscriber to four auto monthlies, I think I understand them pretty well. Like me, they preference driving dynamics but often overdue it expecting everything to be a sports car. You must not be widely read if you didn't find any good reviews of the new Sienna. To help get you started, here's a good compendium of the reviewer's universe:
#10 of 11 Re: Why my 3rd Sienna is a disappointment (long rant) [indydriver]
May 14, 2012 (5:29 am)
Having never driven the 2nd Gen Sienna
The crux of the issue, and why you don't understand!
This is our 4th minivan, having owned a Grand Caravan Sport, Honda Odyssey EX, Ford Windstar SE and now a CPO '08 Sienna LE. We are traditionally new vehicle buyers, but having driven several back to back over the course of a week last year, we concluded that both the 11 Ody EXL and several versions of the Sienna were major steps backwards in both driving dynamics, interior quality, and the functionality of basic creature comforts. The things that several of the car magazines and Consumer Reports sited as obvious cost cutting moves that severely hurt these new offerings were spot on, and quite apparent to those of us 'in the know.'
Coming from a Mopar? Yep, the new Sienna probably seems like nirvana to you. But had you ventured into a dealer demo 2010 as we did, the differences would have been very apparent. And when we stumbled upon a 2008 with 20k miles and a sticker of less than half the price of new, well, the choice was obvious. We broke a tradition of 9 successive new vehicle purchases when it became quite obvious to us that new in this case clearly did not mean better...
Will the Sienna improve to recapture past glory? I'm sure Toyota is hard at work on a 2014 mid run facelift that will address the numerous shortcomings. The incredibly long list of recalls and service campaign bulletins for a first year product has to be quite shocking to their product planners who thought they could save a dime and nobody would notice.